Posted: February 1, 2017 by KGNU News (full audio available in original post)
A boutique on Boulder’s Pearl Street is offering the community more than clothing and accessories…as KGNU’s Julia Caulfield reports, it’s offering opportunities to people who have typically had a hard time getting employed.
From the outside Ramble on Pearl seems like a typical little clothing boutique in downtown Boulder, they have clothes and accessories from some of the leading lifestyle clothing brands, but look a little closer and you will find that this business has an additional mission.
Started in 2014 by Andy and Connie Minden, Ramble on Pearl serves as an on-the-job employment training program for adults with developmental disabilities.
Bryan Su has been working at Ramble for three months.
“We’re a nonprofit clothing store, we sell a lot of stuff like clothing, jewelry, sunglasses, and we have a lot of new brands…”
Store co-founder, Andy Minden says the inspiration for Ramble on Pearl came from their daughter.
“My wife and I are blessed with a daughter who has special needs, and so when she was getting out of the public schools a few years back, we were kind of noticing that for her and her peers, it’s sort of like “what do we do next?” “where does our life go?” everyone else kind gets plugged into the plan of college or jobs and stuff like that, but the opportunities for that population are not quite as obvious.”
So Minden and his wife decided to create a clothing store, with an apprenticeship program where adults with disabilities can learn employment skills and prepare them for other jobs in the community.
“The apprentice program is a paid opportunity for individuals with disabilities to come into the store and develop employment skills that really make them marketable to community employers.”
That’s Kristen Stejskal, the apprentice program manager at Ramble. She says the program allows individuals to develop the hard and soft skills of employment–such as counting change, or customer service.
“We try to develop both of those so no matter what the apprentice wants to go into, in terms of their future employment, that they’re going to be set up to be really successful.”
In the United States, the current unemployment rate for people without disability is about 4.7%, for people with disabilities it’s roughly 9%. This difference highlights the difficulty for people with disabilities to find employment.
Once an apprentice graduates from the program, they have support from a Ramble job coach to help them find a job and make the transition into the new work as smooth as possible.
Apprentice Bryan Su says he wants a job so he can be more independent.
“I want to have my own apartment, get married, and maybe have kids.”
While Ramble is a clothing retail store, their graduates have gone on to work in a variety of settings. Bryan wants to work in a restaurant, another graduate works for the Humane Society. Stejskal says she thinks it’s important that the program allows apprentices to decide what they want to do next in their lives.
“We all get that opportunity; we all get to decide if we’re going to go to college, where we’re going to go to college…and everyone deserves to have that opportunity…and it’s very important to me that the apprentices decide where they want to end up and that Ramble is merely a catalyst to get them to wherever their goal employment is.”
Ramble partners with many business around Boulder who employ one or more of their graduates.
Penny Wheeler, a graduate from the apprenticeship program now works at Clutter Consignment. She says that the apprenticeship at Ramble helped her to get where she is now.
“It taught me how to be independent and how to do things. How to run the register and how to, you know we don’t do clothes here, but we do everything else. But it just taught me how to be, I guess, an independent person. Even with the disability I have, but still it taught me how to be somebody that’s on their own.”
In the first year, Ramble on Pearl graduated six apprentices, now two and a half years later, they have six apprentices working at one time. Moving forward they hope to develop the program to include different types of work so individuals not inclined to work in customer service can participate as well.
Ramble on Pearl will present a fashion show at the Boulder Young Professionals Happy Hour on March 15, 2017. The event will be hosted at A View of the World Art Gallery from 5:30-7:30p.m.